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What is the ‘Habitual Residence Test’?

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This is a test to see if you intend to make the your home in the UK. You need to pass this test to get certain benefits.

If you are making a claim for Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Housing Benefit you will need to pass the ‘habitual residence test’. The Habitual Residence Test checks to see if you have made the British Isles your normal home. This has to be in the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

Who doesn’t have to pass the test

You are exempt from the test if you are:
A recognised refugee and a person granted ‘exceptional leave to remain’
An European Economic Area (EEA) worker or a certain other EEA national who has the right to reside in the UK.
A person in Great Britain who left Montserrat after 1-11-95.
Already receiving Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, Income Support or Income-based Job Seekers Allowance.
Who does have to pass the test

If you don’t come under one of the exemptions, even if you are a British Citizen you will need to pass the test. It is important to note that it is only you who needs to pass the test and not your partner and dependants.

How to pass the test

You will need to demonstrate that you intend to make the place where you live your home for the time being. It doesn’t mean that you intend to live there permanently. The longer you reside here, the easier this is. Other things which are taken into account are the reasons you are here.
If you were previously habitually resident, and have returned from abroad, you should not fail the test. So, for example, if you were a British Citizen who went to live abroad and have returned to live in Great Britain.

What happens if you fail the test?

You can appeal the decision. Whilst appealing you may be able to get an interim payment. However, you will not be entitled to Income Support, Income-based Job Seekers Allowance, Housing or Council Tax Benefit.

How to appeal

You can appeal to a Social Security Appeal Tribunal on form GL24, from the Benefits Agency. You should get help with this from someone like the Citizens' Advice Bureau. Whilst appealing you can submit another claim for the same benefit. This is probably the quickest way to get benefit. You may be more likely to succeed as you will have lived here for longer. 

Other help

If you have failed the test and have dependant children, you may be entitled to help from Social Services. If you are appealing, you may be able to have a crisis loan from the Social Fund, where there is a good chance of your appeal being successful.

Also your local MP may be able to help you receive an extra statutory payment.